Team Bentley Names British Formula One Driver Line-Up For 2003 | Part Two

Mark provides the proof that a childhood racing karts is not the only way to reach the very top flight of motor-racing; indeed Mark’s route to the top proved perhaps the most unorthodox of all. In fact it was on two wheels that Mark first made his name, as a 14-year old in motocross. Three years and many championships later, Mark decided his talents deserved a wider audience and turned his attention to cars.

Contesting two Formula Ford championships in his debut season (1984), Mark won a staggering 25 races, an account to which he added the British Formula Ford 1600 championship the following year and the European FF2000 title in ’86.

Again veering off the traditional route to the top, Mark moved straight from Formula Ford to Formula 3000 – effectively junior Grand Prix cars – and missing out Formula 3 altogether. In an underfunded car he performed well enough to net a works drive for Lola in 1988.

In the following two seasons, he performed the twin roles of Williams F1 test driver and Nissan sportscar racer, jobs he did sufficiently well to earn a full time F1 drive in 1991. In all Mark would contest four seasons in Formula One and score podium places too, but when he was replaced at McLaren by David Coulthard, Mark thought it time to show his talents in another arena and duly went to America where he was to work for five seasons, the high point coming in 1997 when he won three races at Portland, Oregon and Fontana and was named by Autosport magazine as its British Competition Driver of the Year.

In his career, Mark has also proven to be a remarkable sportscar racer. He was first introduced to Le Mans in 1989, right in the thick of the fearsome Group C era though he was unable to drive in the race on account of a team-mate crashing his Nissan before his first stint. He made up for it in 1990 though, qualifying his Nissan on pole-position with a lap that is still talked about at Le Mans to this day. But his day of days came in 1992 when, driving the Peugeot 905 he won Le Mans at his third attempt.

Mark has also raced at Le Mans for the last two years in the fast but hitherto fragile MG-Lolas, proving to all there that he has lost none of his ferocious speed nor the will to win.

continues... | Part Three

Published : 04/02/03 Author : Melanie Carter

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